Brazil

Page, Joseph A.

TRACING A NATION'S CHARACTER IBAZIL Errol Lincoln Uys Simon and Schuster, $18.95, 1,005 pp. Joseph A. Pag. In counterpoint to the recent Terry Gilliam film, Brazil, which has nothing...

...The author assembles what appears with scant hyperbole to be a cast of thousands...
...Given the scope of Uys's undertaking, one may legitimately point out inclusions, omissions, and slights which may distort his portrait of Brazil...
...the military intervened, governed for two decades, and not only stimulated growth but also transferred massive amounts of wealth from the poor to the rich...
...Uys is fond of and skilled at depicting episodes of carnage, an unfortunate and recurring phenomenon which has contributed to the decimation of the original natives...
...There were some six million Indians in what is now Brazil when the first Portuguese arrived...
...But in the years that followed, Kubitschek's economic policies triggered an inflationary spiral...
...The realization of President Juscelino Kubitschek's dream may mark a watershed in Brazilian history...
...In counterpoint to the recent Terry Gilliam film, Brazil, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the country, Errol Lincoln Uys's mega-novel of the same name marches briskly across five centuries of Brazilian history, from the decade preceding the arrival of the first Portuguese explorers to the inauguration of the new capital, Brasilia, in 1960...
...In Ribeiro's fanciful version, an orixa, or African-cult divinity under whose protection a young black soldier has been placed, intervenes on behalf of the Brazilians in one of the decisive battles of the war...
...For example, he devotes considerable space to a graphic description of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, of marginal import to Brazilian history...
...Uys nicely captures this euphoria in his concluding pages...
...Uys succeeds in bringing to life most of the great events and currents of Brazilian history by interweaving fictional characters with historical figures...
...Industrialization, the winning of the World Cup soccer title for the first time, and the musical creativity which produced the bossa nova all contributed to a widespread feeling that at last Brazil was beginning to approximate its potential...
...The four pages of genealogical charts at the end of the book contain but a fraction of his dramatis personae...
...the raised expectations of the poor de27 February 1987: 121 stabilized the country...
...and the ravages of environmental degradation began to ruin what was once a tropical and subtropical paradise...
...The reader comes away with an appreciation of the turbulence and complexity of Brazil's past and the major conflicts which have shaped its present...
...Indeed, Rio and its contributions to the Brazilian soul remain rather neglected throughout the book...
...It is also the saga of a physical environment both seductive and intractable, shaping and dominating all comers, from the earliest settlers to a stream of immigrants from Europe, Asia, and even the Confederate States of America...
...The latter has become the particular province of Latin American writers...
...During the late 1950s a giddy optimism took hold as the country felt itself surge forward...
...Time alone will tell whether the indomitable Brazilians will surmount the critical dilemmas they now face...
...When the issue resolves itself, Uys will have a worthy sequel to this readable, informative, commendable book...
...One need only compare Uys's rather straightforward treatment of the nineteenth-century war against Paraguay with the magic spell which Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro casts in Viva o povo brasileiro ("Long Live the Brazilian People,** a prize-winning novel which covers much of the same historical ground...
...The story of the surprise transfer of the Portuguese monarchy to Brazil in 1808 and of the first decades of royal rule is told in flashback form, which not only dilutes or bypasses such colorful figures as the hirsute, ambitious, passionate, and ultimately murderous Queen Carlota, the womanizing monarch Pedro I and his mistress, the Marquesa de Santos, but also neglects the transformation of Rio de Janeiro from a sleepy colonial town to the capital of the nation...
...long-neglected social problems caused crime and delinquency which have been shredding the social fabric...
...For the most part, Brazil succeeds surprisingly well as historiography...
...It is, to say the least, an ambitious task to which Uys has set himself...
...The decision to end the book with the birth of Brasilia is a felicitous one...
...Brazil's past is a richly detailed tapestry of great events and strong personalities, as well as a living organism embodied in a national character which emerges from the confrontation and intermingling of three races...
...The blood-letting which Uys portrays in graphic form contrasts sharply with the contemporary image of the amiable, fun-loving Brazilian, and is a useful reminder of the capacity for violence which lurks not far from the surface in Brazil...
...Brazil is more a novelized history than a historical novel, in the sense that its primary concern is to convey a sense of the country's past rather than to impose the author's imagination upon actual events and transform them to suit some higher literary end...
...122: Commonweal...
...His major focus is upon two families, the one acquiring vast landholdings in the sugar-growing region of the northeast, the other contributing pioneers, prospectors, and entrepreneurs to Sao Paulo in the south...
...One may quarrel with the comparatively short shrift he gives to the experience of black Brazilians (his treatment of the runaway-slave settlements and their struggles to remain free depicted in the recent movie Quilombo is somewhat cursory) and the career of populist President Getulio Vargas, whose influence upon Brazilian politics remains strong to this day...
...They are a varied and vibrant lot cannibals and missionaries, masters and slaves, nobles and peasants, warriors and dreamers following their own diverse visions of self-fulfillment in a land which offered unlimited hope...
...Today the entire Indian population could gather within the confines of Rio de Janeiro's principal soccer stadium...

Vol. 114 • February 1987 • No. 4


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.